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1989 Toyota Cressida - Fish Out Of Water

On The Street With Ken Gushi

Charles Trieu
May 10, 2010
Photographer: Jonathan Wong

Driving is in his blood. We recently caught up with professional drifter Ken Gushi at Asari Auto, his dad's auto repair shop. Both love cars and work on them. Just like the cartoon drama, Ken learned how to drift from his father, in an AE86. And that was when he was 13, before he was even old enough to get a license to drive. So it's easy to understand how he became the youngest driver to ever compete in D1GP and Formula D at age 16. Fast-forward, he's 23 now and has years of professional drifting experience. We were curious to see what he's up to when he's off the clock. You can take a fish out of water, but you can't take someone who drifts for a living and not expect him to get loose on the streets. An unsuspecting 1989 Toyota Cressida was what we encountered. No, its not anywhere near perfect shape but it's a very realistic street condition. Something we've all had and gone through with our cars.

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You might have heard the a rumor or two about Cressidas having some potential, so let us and Ken show you exactly what you can do to these grandpa machines. For starters, no '89-91 (X83 chassis) Cressida came with a manual transmission in the US. On top of that, they came with the 7M-GE that is known for blowing head gaskets. Luckily the '86.5-92 Supra 7M-GTE turbo engine bolts in along with the manual transmission parts. And even better the JZ series engines and transmission also bolts into the X83 Cressida chassis. Most Cressida owners go with the imported 2.5L 1JZ-GTE turbo engine, but Ken decided to ball a little harder with the legendary 3.0L 2JZ-GTE, which is essentially a twin-turbo Supra engine.

Super Street: Why did you build this car?
Ken Gushi: I built this Cressida for the sole purpose of drifting practice. During the off-season for Formula Drift, my RS-R Scion Racing tC is stripped down for a fresh rebuild and the car is not available for me to practice with. To close the gap between the last round of the previous season and the first round of the next season, I built this Cressida so I can continue to drift. It's cheap and roomy so I thought it would be the perfect candidate for an all-purpose, street-able, affordable, drift car that can haul ass. This isn't my first Cressida either. I first got into them back in 2005.

SS: All Toyota, all the time?
KG: I've been a huge fan of Toyotas ever since I can remember. My first drift car was a Toyota Corolla, and currently I compete with the first RWD converted drift Scion tC. I also have another Scion tC for a daily driver. So pretty much everything I drive is a Toyota.

SS: How long did it take you to build this car?
KG: The build took me roughly three months. I started off the build by prepping the body first. When I got the car, the body was beat up because the previous owner didn't take care of it. There was rust everywhere and I knew if I didn't take care of it then, it would get worse. I spent about a month and a half doing bodywork and restoration. Then I moved on to suspension parts and brakes. That took about two weeks while waiting on some parts from 'G' at Serial Nine. If you want awesome suspension parts for a Cressida, you have to go to They even have an aero kit for the Cressida! The rest of the time was spent prepping the engine but in the end, it came out better than I had expected. This car is a missile!

SS: How difficult was it to swap in the straight-six beast and five-speed conversion?
KG: The swap was very easy and straightforward. Toyota was nice enough to make many things interchangeable with their cars. When I looked underneath the car, there were about 10 different holes to mount/relocate the transmission mount.

SS: Did you do the swap yourself?
KG: I did everything myself, wiring and all.

SS: How does the Cressida drift?
KG: It's really easy to slide. My tC has a long wheelbase so I needed a similar car to practice with. The Cressida has a long 106 inch wheelbase.

SS: Do you drift this thing on the street?
KG: I did once accidentally slide in on an on-ramp.

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SS: Does that 'accidentally' happen often?
KG: It does surprisingly. (smiles)

SS: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of building a Cressida?
KG: Look for a strong, clean, healthy motor if you're not swapping in another motor. Beware, the 7M-GE is known for blowing head gaskets. Check out, there's a lot of helpful information on there. They do have a thing against newbs, so just grow thicker skin and you'll be fine.

Aside from all the performance mods, this Cressida has a complete front-end change. It's hard to tell if you don't stare at Cressidas all day long, but the Cresta front-end is a subtle yet muy bueno upgrade. It also lightens up the front-end and allows for easier installation of the 4'' thick front mount intercooler. Using the JDM MarkII, Chaser or Cresta front end requires using the rear of the Cressida front fenders and welding them to the front of the JDM fenders. The headlights, hood and grille all bolt up after that.

Not completely done, the Cressida is still pretty rough around the edges. This is a street car and this is street life, even for a pro drifter. Eventually, Ken plans to remove the factory twin-turbos and upgrade to a fat single GReddy T67 turbo. Once that's in place the car will get a nice new coat of paint for flossing on the streets. Stay tuned and we might bring it back when it's all done. You can take the track and the car away from him, but drifting is a habit for Ken Gushi.

Tuning Menu

1989 Toyota Cressida
Owner Kenshiro Gushi
Hometown the SGV, CA
Occupation Professional drifter and goon
Power 280 hp, 320 ft. lb. of torque

Engine Twin-Turbo 2JZ-GTE, Walbro fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, Siemens injectors

Drivetrain Supra R154 5-speed transmission

Engine Management A'PEXi SAFC-2

Suspension & Chassis Megan Racing coilovers, Serial Nine subframe and differential bushings

Brakes Nissan Skyline R32 4-piston calipers

Wheels & Tires 18'' Work Euroline DH rims, Toyo Proxes T1R tires

Exterior JDM Toyota Cresta front-end conversion, '91-92 taillight conversion

Interior Recaro Profi SPG bucket seat, Bride seat rails, Takata MPH-340 harness, Nardi Wood Grain Classic steering wheel, Blitz boost gauge

Thanks you, Asari Auto, Toyo Tires, Serial Nine, Drift Motion, Koji at Hiro's Auto, Scott at SPD Metal Works, and my Visa/Mastercards,,,,,,,

By Charles Trieu
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